The Humpers dispense gritty, unrelenting rock & roll on their 1996 Epitaph release, Live Forever or Die Trying. The opener, "Wake Up and Lose," sets the tone for their third album, layering bleakly sarcastic lyrics over cocky, yet glowering rock, with a coiled flare-up of guitar solo at its center. Scott "Deluxe" Drake's vocals on songs like "Soul Surgeon" have an urban rasp, carrying subways, street fights, and the smoky air that gusts from rock clubs as the crowds push out after last call. The guitar builds tough, simple chords to a wailing, frantic solo over an almost dancy beat that pulses with raw energy. "Fast, Fucked, & Furious" coaxes the listener, along with a lowdown-bopping bassline and a momentum as brisk as the song's title. Like many songs on the album, the lyrics are more bellowed than sung, with multiple bandmembers joining to create the impression of a singalong prompted by drunken camaraderie. One can imagine them with their arms around each other, singing as they stumble down the trash-strewn boulevards as the streetlights reflect off oil-slicked puddles. Images of urban detritus litter the album, from the graffiti-caked men's room in the liner notes (complete with "Wake up and Die" inside the urinal) to the music's menacing late-night drag-race mood. "Space Station Love" -- one of seven re-recordings of previously released songs on the album -- epitomizes this sound. It's like a car wreck, with the vocals being adrenaline pushing listeners to collision, the howling guitar solos being the crumpling metal, and the sludgy bassline and rhythm guitar acting as the congealing blood. While they always pay tribute to their guitar forebears, from Chuck Berry to Johnny Thunders, the band's sound is fullest when further celebrating rock's roots by adding piano on "Loser's Club" and "Anarchy Juice." The energy is amped up on these songs, which stand out on an album that often relies on the same vocal and guitar mannerisms throughout. It may be true that the Humpers have their sound down and don't vary much in what they deliver, but they sure deliver rock & roll.
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AllMusic Review by Sarah Tomlinson